IBM consulting service tracks environmental standards, safety, cost, performance

New IBM Sustainable Supplier Information Management services seek to eliminate waste.

11/03/2009


IBM Corporate Social Responsibility

IBM Corporate Social Responsibility

A new IBM (NYSE: IBM) consulting service is said to be able to help clients develop methods to collect, manage and analyze supplier information for energy use, environmental impact, quality, safety, cost, efficiency, and labor practices.

"A [company with a] global supply chain with thousands of partners exposes a company to increased risk, waste, inefficiency, environmental impact and cost," said Eric Riddleberger, IBM's business strategy consulting global leader, who heads up the company's corporate social responsibility consulting efforts. "Being able to set sustainability standards and measure performance against them across such a large network is an enormous task."

Supply chain inefficiencies and inconsistent practices can cause excessive use of energy, water and materials, increased environmental impact, variances in quality, product safety concerns and poor labor practices. These can lead to increased cost, compliance issues, and disenfranchising key stakeholders, such as customers, shareholders, partners, and current and prospective employees, who care about these issues.

IBM estimates that, by using new technologies and processes to collect and analyze large amounts of information from across a company's supplier networks, companies can then apply uniform standards, measure compliance and performance, and take corrective action thereby potentially improving supply chain efficiency by a minimum of 8 to 12%, with corresponding reductions in cost, environmental impact, and risk.

But most companies are not equipped to do that kind of data collection and analysis , either within their own operations or across their supply chains, according to IBM. In its 2009 global survey on green and sustainability, 29% of the respondents said they aren't collecting any of this data at all from their supply chains. Eight in 10 aren't collecting supplier data for CO2 emissions and water usage, and six in 10 aren't checking supplier data for labor standards.

With these responses in mind, IBM's Sustainable Supplier Information Management offering is designed to help companies develop processes and systems for:

- Part number management, to ease part and product traceability;
- Process change management, to improve response and reduce costs
associated with changing requirements;
- Supplier audit management, to ensure compliance on issues ranging
from cost and quality to business ethics and environmental practices;
- Qualification management, to vet new suppliers for performance and
sustainability standards;
- Supplier problem management, to ensure quick response when problems
arise;
- Real-time quality management, to reduce cost, improve quality and
ensure continuity of supply;
- Predictive quality management, using automated systems and virtual
supplier auditing to head off problems before they occur.
- The Sustainable Supplier Information Management offering can be used with IBM's Sustainable Procurement offering, which helps companies define cost, efficiency and sustainability measurements and goals for their procurement activities. This covers all supplies, materials, ingredients, components, finished goods and services they purchase to run their operations and to develop, manufacture and deliver their own products or services.

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- Edited by David Greenfield, Reed Business Information, and Mark T. Hoske, electronic products editor, Manufacturing Business Technology , www.mbtmag.com